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Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize

Awarded to the author(s) of the best original work of literary fiction.

Supported by Friesens

Ethel Davis Wilson, née Bryant, novelist, storywriter, essayist (b. at Port Elizabeth, S Africa 20 Jan 1888; d. at Vancouver 22 Dec 1980). Wilson’s small but impressive literary output has earned her an important place in Canadian literature. The only child of an English Wesleyan minister missioned in South Africa, Wilson was orphaned at 10and sent to Vancouver to live with her maternal grandmother and several aunts. She received her education at private schools in Vancouver and England, graduating from the Vancouver Normal School in 1907. She taught in several city schools until her marriage in 1927. Wilson’s delight and fascination with her adopted homeland permeates her work, and she is one of the first Canadian writers to capture truly the rugged and unsurpassed beauty of the BC landscape. Yet this strong sense of place, evoked in her unpretentious and lucid style, is never merely regional, as her characters consistently struggle with the paradox of the human condition the intense desire for personal freedom versus the strong need for responsible and harmonious integration with others. Wilson’s early stories were published in British magazines in 1937, but she quit writing until after WWII. Hetty Dorval (1947) established her reputation, and was followed quickly by The Innocent Traveller (1949, which is not strictly fiction but a family chronicle in which Wilson herself figures as the character Rose), The Equations of Love (1952), Swamp Angel (1954), Love and Salt Water (1956) and Mrs. Golightly and Other Stories (1961). Her last stories and essays appeared in 1964. In 1961 Wilson received the Canada Council Medal, in 1964 the Lorne Pierce Medal from the Royal Society of Canada, and in 1970 the Order of Canada Medal of Service.

Suggested Reading: D. Stouck, ed, Ethel Wilson: Stories, Essays and Letters (1988).

Source: DONNA COATES, The Canadian Encyclopedia Plus, Copyright © 1996 by McClelland & Stewart Inc.